The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has been a favorite of millions of gamers for almost ten years now. Fans love the beautiful, snowy landscapes, endless side quests, and extensive modding community. Bethesda Game Studios re-released the game as a port to multiple consoles years after its initial release. In this review, I’m going to focus specifically on the Nintendo Switch port to see how the console handles one of the fantastic games of all time. Overall, it’s impressive just how well the game works on this platform.
For readers who haven’t yet played Skyrim, the open-world fantasy game takes place on a continent called Tamriel, where races of elves, men, lizards, and cats engage in guilds, trading, magic, battle, and more. The main storyline is interesting enough, but the various guilds and diverse side quests provide the nearly limitless entertainment value of the game. The world is full of surprises, the game’s nearly unlimited entertainment value, and Bethesda did a fine job fitting the massive world into the Switch port.
The Switch performed great under Skyrim’s demanding graphics. I found on a 30-hour playthrough that the loading times were even better than on the original consoles, taking only one minute to enter the world from the opening screen and less than ten seconds on transitions. Skyrim veterans will remember waiting much longer than that in the old days. No matter how congested the world space, I found that the system never stuttered and kept up at 30 FPS. Visually, things look great on the Switch—lots of detail, even in the far-off mountain views. Bethesda doesn’t seem to have made any sacrifices, and the game looks as good as it does on all but the best PC setups.
I was sad to see that one of my favorite elements of Skyrim didn’t make it into the Switch version: modding. It’s practically nonexistent, even though ports for the Xbox One and PS4 feature a stripped-down mode capability. However, with the original game and all of the expansions (included on Switch), there are still hundreds of hour’s worth of excellent content for you to play. And to be fair, the fact that the Switch offers portable play that no other console does comes close to making up for the lack of mods.
As often happens on Nintendo ports, I found that the console-specific changes come off as gimmicky. I didn’t care for the motion-controlled lock picking interface, for example. I would stick with the regular button and joystick controls. The basics translate well to the Joycon controllers, and I like the rumble in battle.
The game isn’t perfect, but its flaws are mostly those that come with being a 2011 game and have been part of its attraction over the years. Buggy NPC movements and enemy AI, suspect voice acting, and stiff animations aren’t gone, but they are, ultimately, part of Skyrim’s charm. It’s still one of the best games ever made, and the portable playability on the Nintendo Switch makes this a no-brainer for any open-world gamer.